Faces of the news
As an aide of online gambling tycoon Jack Lam, the retired police officer now finds himself at the center of a bribery-extortion scandal. On Nov. 26, he and Lam met with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II at Shangri-La Hotel in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, where they allegedly offered Aguirre P100 million a month in exchange for the release of 1,316 Chinese nationals rounded up by immigration agents on Nov. 24 for working illegally at Lam’s casino in Pampanga. Aguirre said he rejected the bribe. Hours later, Sombero met with Immigration Commissioners Michael Robles and Al Argosino at a casino mall in Parañaque City and handed them P50 million in cash for the release of 600 Chinese illegal workers arrested in Clark Freeport Zone.
His head was the first to roll in the bribery-extortion scandal now roiling the Bureau of Immigration (BI). The acting BI intelligence chief was sacked by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II after Michael Robles and Al Argosino alleged that he had asked for P18 million to pay off Inquirer columnist Ramon Tulfo, who had written about the extortion, and Wally Sombero. Apart from Calima, Aguirre also fired Calima’s assistant, Police Supt. Edward Chan, over the scandal. The secretary said the allegations against Calima and Chan were so serious that he had lost his trust in them. Calima was appointed to the post by Aguirre. Even so, he said they could be reinstated if they would be cleared in the investigation. Calima has denied the accusations.
Al Argosino and Michael Robles
Resigned or fired? The two tendered their resignation late Friday night. But President Duterte told media in Davao early Saturday morning that he had fired the two immigration commissioners for corruption. They “will be held accountable for their actions,” the President said. The two were caught on security cameras accepting brown bags containing P50 million from Wally Sombero during a meeting at the City of Dreams casino mall in Parañaque City from late night of Nov. 26 to early morning of Nov. 27. “The cash bundles were so heavy that one of the paper bags got ripped,” said sources from the justice department, who showed copies of the video footage. On Tuesday, the two called a press conference to say that they kept the money as evidence in their investigation of corruption in the bureau. They claimed to have received P48 million as they gave P2 million to Sombero as his share. They also said they handed over P18 million to the BI intelligence chief Charles Calima, a former police officer. They later presented the remaining P30 million in a press conference where they also announced the filing of a bribery case against casino tycoon Jack Lam. The question in everybody’s mind was why it took them more than two weeks to report the bribery case. The two lawyers are fraternity brods of President Duterte and Aguirre. Inquirer columnist Ramon Tulfo broke the extortion story last week. Tulfo has threatened to sue for libel after the two implicated him in the extortion case. Aguirre, who said he felt betrayed, had earlier recommended the officials’ dismissal from service.
Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido
The controversial police chief of Albuera town in Leyte province was suddenly ordered transferred to Ozamiz City in Misamis Occidental. Espenido, one of the police officers summoned to appear in the Senate investigation on illegal drugs, blamed politics for his transfer. He had earlier claimed, among others, that Mayor Richard Gomez of Ormoc City received protection money from alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, citing the latter’s affidavit. He has also been tagged by Espinosa as a conduit to Ronnie Dayan, erstwhile lover and alleged bagman of then Justice Secretary and now Sen. Leila de Lima. He wondered aloud: “I don’t know if this is reward or punishment after what I have accomplished in Albuera.”
Filmmaker Erik Matti won the Crouching Tigers Award at the Crouching Tigers Project Lab, held in conjunction with the inaugural International Film Festival and Awards in Macau last week. Matti won for a film he is developing with producer Dondon Monteverde, the action drama “Pintakasi,” which is based on the Mamasapano tragedy. The honor came with a $10,000 cash prize. Organized by producer Todd Brown of XYZ Films and the website Screen Anarchy (formerly Twitch), the pitching forum boasted jurors from Fox International, Ivanhoe Pictures and Huace Media. Matti and Monteverde presented the planned project in front of producers, investors and financiers.
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